Culture Shock in College

My name is Kaelyn Johnson and I am from Los Angeles, California and I am currently a junior who is majoring in biology and minoring in chemistry at the University of Redlands. I am going to study abroad in Belfast, Northern Ireland in January and I cannot wait to experience college life in a different country.

One of the most difficult things that come along with college life, especially for college freshmen that are minorities is the culture shock that comes with moving onto campus. Living at home there isn’t much thought put behind cultural things like the hairstyles, food and clothing choices but once you enter college and a new environment you can become uncomfortably conscious of yourself.
I am currently attending a private school were the cultural and average income of the majority at my school is very different than my own and I remember being uncomfortable in my own skin until I found where I fit in on campus.
My first week of college consisted of freshmen orientation which included constant ice breakers, introductions and interactive games with my fellow classmen. During that one week period I made solid friendships with people I am still friends with in my junior year of college.
Being comfortable in a new environment that is very different than the one you are used to can be difficult but still manageable when you have friends and activities to keep you busy. The three most important pieces of advice I can give you about dealing with the initial culture shock of college is to:
1. Find a club, class or sport you are interested in and pursue it. This will not only take your mind off of fitting in, but it will also help you meet people who have a similar interest as you. There are a few culture-based clubs on my campus and they can serve as a safe haven for meeting people who are of a similar background as you. Although it is generally a good idea to meet and mingle with people from different cultures it is always comforting to meet and connect with people of your own ethnic background.
2. Do not be afraid to sit with a stranger in your school’s cafeteria/eating area. Trust me, it may seem weird at first but your fellow freshman especially will be delighted to make a new friend in the seemingly huge crowd at school.
3. Try all the food your school serves at least once, even if it looks weird. I am no picky eater, but after seeing quinoa and some of the vegetarian options for the first time I was not very thrilled about trying them out. The first time I ate a quinoa salad at my school I fell in love with it and the many vegetarian options like their ‘chicken’ burgers and I have never looked back. Experiencing new foods while I’ve been in college has been one of the most eye-opening experiences I’ve had and I’m glad I did not miss out on it.
On an ending note my last suggestion for conquering culture shock while away at college is to just take full advantage of the classes, and events your school offers you and your trepidation will quickly wash away. Although being in college for four years may seem like a long time it will be over before you know it, because the time between my freshman and now junior year have flown by. Enjoy yourselves.

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